By Clive Young.
With the move on February 17 to digital TV comes a secondary move: All wireless microphone users are required to move out of the 700 MHz frequency band. Many mic manufacturers have instituted policies and services to help their customers make the transition, but keeping track of who's doing what can get confusing. Accordingly, here, for your wireless edification, is a rundown of what seven top-name mic manufacturers are doing to ensure your mics get where they have to go:
AKG: "AKG has issued new frequencies, for all its wireless systems, that comply with these new rulings and it will no longer sell equipment in prohibited frequencies," said Joseph Wagoner, product manager for wireless tour/installed sound. "This has made it necessary to discontinue many items from our inventory and add additional product that is FCC-compliant.
"AKG has developed rebate programs for the end user to trade in a 700 MHz wireless system from any manufacturer and receive a $100 rebate on the purchase of a new WMS450 wireless system in FCC-compliant frequencies. We will launch a similar program for the purchase of WMS4500 wireless and we also have a trade-in program for existing WMS4000 users that will allow them to trade in a 700 MHz range transmitter and receiver for a new, FCC-compliant WMS4500 transmitter and receiver. The exchange will be on a tiered basis, based on how long they've had their systems, and can be handled by contacting AKG Acoustics USA directly or through your regional representative. (www.akg.com)
Audio-Technica: "Audio-Technica reacted proactively and ceased all 700 MHz development in 1998 when the FCC announced its plans for spectrum reallocation," said Jackie Green, vice president of R&D Engineering. "We also began investing in advanced technologies that would ensure reliable wireless operation, such as our SpectraPulse Ultra Wideband wireless product line, which is immune to the White Spaces or 700 MHz spectrum issues. We have proven technologies for enhanced wireless and will continue to develop smarter devices, smarter frequency plans, better-tuned antennas, and better ways to support our end users.
"As for rebates or other programs, under these uncertain conditions, Audio-Technica has a policy to help our customers through frequency coordination and ultimately rebates if interference from new 700 MHz devices renders their systems inoperable. We will issue a final policy addressing this matter once we have clear direction from the FCC." (www.audiotechnica.com)
Audix: "We have altered the frequency bands we offer to below 700 MHz; we will offer programs for upgrades," reported Cliff Castle, vice president of sales & marketing. (www.audixusa.com)
Electro-Voice: "We've been in the process of reducing the number of products that we make up there in the 700 MHz band for quite a while," said Dave Egenberger, wireless mic product manager, "and then for existing, current product, we have a re-banding program where customers can return 700 MHz product and get it re-banded to something below 700. For older equipment, we will have a rebate program in place very shortly." (www.electrovoice.com) UPDATE: More info on EV's policy can now be found HERE.
Lectrosonics: "Our UHF wireless mic products typically covered the range from 538 to 768 MHz," said Karl Winkler, director of business development. "Starting in 2007, we began offering our products on new ranges, covering down to 470 MHz. Then in late 2007, we announced to our dealers that we would only offer products in the 700 MHz range as special order items through 2008, then cease making them for the U.S. market. By adding the lower frequency offerings, we felt that it would compensate for the loss of the higher ranges.
"Because there are many thousands of users out there with our products in the 700 MHz range, we put in place a service policy to re-tune existing, current products away from this band. At the same time, even obsolete products dating back five years can be 'traded in' towards current product at special pricing." (www.lectrosonics.com)
Sennheiser: "Luckily, our high-end 3000 and 5000 Series components have a unique architecture that allows them to shift their tuning window across a large portion of the UHF spectrum," said Joe Ciaudelli, wireless spokesperson. "Most of those components can easily be reprogrammed by us or a trained RF technician. For our Evolution series, we added a new range, G, for our monitoring systems, operating from 572-608 MHz.
"Also, we are offering a rebate program with several options. We offer a simple flat, minimum rebate for any system. To be more equitable to customers who purchased our Evolution systems within recent years, we are offering a tiered rebate. We are also offering upgrade options for those customers interested in purchasing our latest high-end 3000 and 5000 Series models." (www.sennheiserusa.com)
Shure: "We proactively stopped selling wireless systems operating in these bands about two years ago," said Michael Pettersen, director of applications engineering. "We also discontinued the development of new products that would be impacted by the transition, and began manufacturing other products designed to work on a broadened range of new, expanded bandwidths operating within the core TV range. To date, we've also hosted around 80 advanced wireless seminars for the express purpose of educating those within the industry to the reality of the situation.
"Most recently we introduced a rebate program. It offers up to $1,000 for the trade-in of Shure 700 MHz frequency band wireless systems and other related components purchased before February 1, 2007. We will be honoring the trade-in of other manufacturers' qualifying 700 MHz frequency band wireless systems and their related components as well." (www.shure.com)